Last week my partner and I joined around fifty of our neighbours from Surry Hills and Redfern to protest planned traffic changes on Cleveland Street, which we’re worried will put pedestrians and cyclists at risk and hurt local businesses.

It was the culmination of a busy month for the Cleveland Street Action Group.

When I first heard of Transport for NSW’s plans to remove five right turns from Cleveland St late one Friday night, my first thought was about the inconvenience. I wondered how I was going to get home from Broadway, a visit to the pool or the kids’ taekwondo lessons.

But the more I thought about it, the more concerned I was about safety. Transport’s plan will send more than 5,000 cars a day from Cleveland St into the local side streets, right past busy Bourke Street Public School and across the popular Bourke St cycleway in two places.

Not only that, but it will be a blow to local businesses already impacted by COVID-19. The changes will make it almost impossible for anyone coming by car, bike or Uber from the west along Cleveland St. Most customers will just give up and go elsewhere.

Our concerns have been echoed by City of Sydney councillors, including the Lord Mayor and Deputy Mayor, and the State Members for Sydney and Newtown. Transport has since written to Council committing to more consultation—we hope they’ll honour that.

We chose national Ride2School day to protest to help highlight what’s at stake. We’re very lucky in this area, around 80 percent of the kids at the local primary school walk or ride there each day—that’s much higher than the national average of 25-32 percent.

It’s been a busy year, and this has been a lot to take on, especially after Keep Your Local Alive, but my partner and I, and our wonderful neighbours, agreed we couldn’t stand by and allow poor planning by bureaucrats to put the lives of local kids at risk.

Annette Tolhurst is the founder of Keep Your Local Alive, a social media group started to help people in Surry Hills, Redfern, Waterloo and Alexandria stay in touch with local cafes, bars, restaurants and small businesses as they adapted to lockdowns and the pandemic.

To learn more about the Cleveland Street Action Group visit, email or search for

“Cleveland Street Action group” on Facebook.